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Opportunities in the Making - Connecting Businesses and Interns

Internships | KzooConnect

An old adage states, "It's not what you know; it's who you know." That's not necessarily true in Kalamazoo.

Thanks to a partnership between the Monroe-Brown Internship Program and Southwest Michigan First (SMF), local college students have the opportunity to demonstrate what they know and make business connects all before graduation.

Through its dedication to higher education, the Monroe-Brown Foundation promotes educational opportunities and job growth in Kalamazoo County with an ultimate goal of "keeping the most talented and entrepreneurial students in the Community," as the foundation's website states.

Jane Baker, Executive Director of the Monroe-Brown Foundation, facilitates the internship program. She joined the foundation in 2003.

"We started a relationship with SMF in 2007 to further expand our efforts," Baker said. "SMF deals with the company side. They find the companies and we take up the funding side of things.

"We created this program to keep our kids in our community," Baker added.

The program provides up to $3,000 in scholarship funding to participating interns.

Successfully matching interns to area companies requires a vast network of business connections. That's where SMF comes in. Petey Stephanak helps to lead these efforts.

Stephanak establishes business relationships throughout the community - more than 500 companies and counting in the region to date.

"We leverage those business relationships to help companies with the Monroe-Brown Internship Program," Stephanak said.

The partnership is working in the students' and the businesses' favor. According to Baker, 50-65 percent of the interns placed by the Monroe-Brown program are offered a permanent position after their internship. She considers retaining talent and keeping young workers in the community a success.

Hearing the interns' experiences first hand is also gratifying.

"I love the wrap up sessions for the internship program," Baker said. "The students each give a 2-3 minute presentation of what they learned and did. The things our students are doing out in the community is truly amazing!"

"I enjoy helping build business relationships and enabling our students to become assets to our community and stay in the area," Baker said. "When we bring together great companies with great talent, everybody wins."

Stephanak and the SMF serve as a conduit to connect students with these opportunities.

"We want to keep our talent in Kalamazoo," she said.

Applications for the Monroe-Brown Internship Program opened on Jan. 2. The deadline is Feb. 28. Interested students are advised to apply as soon as possible.

The program expects more than 800 applicants this year. Most businesses will receive 16-20 applicants for an opening. Businesses begin to review and interview applicants as they are received.

To apply for the Monroe-Brown Internship program, visit

To join Southwest Michigan First's business network and search for your next intern candidates, contact Petey Stephanak.

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